BAHRAM CHAH, Afghanistan – In the early morning hours of March 14, elements from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion pushed into Bahram Chah, clearing a path for 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and began a three-day operation known as Rawhide.
“This is our chance to spoil the insurgents’ spring offensive,” said Capt. Mac Steele, the commanding officer for Support Company. “Coalition forces have attacked here before, but have been unable to make a big enough impact on the enemy’s efforts throughout the Helmand River valley. That’s what we intend to do.”
Bahram Chah is a small city near the Pakistan border commonly used by enemy insurgents to smuggle weapons, drugs and improvised explosive device making material into southern Afghanistan. The town was heavily fortified with IEDs and ambush positions scattered along the surrounding mountaintops.
With the high risk of IEDs, the Assault Breacher Vehicle platoon was asked to clear a safe route into the city to allow 3rd LAR access for an assault. The platoon is actually composed of combat engineers, but during their seven-month deployment they are ABV operators.
“It is a very useful vehicle,” said Cpl. Kevin Wallin, a 26-year-old combat engineer from Philadelphia. “During my last deployment I was doing all the things the ABV does by hand. Sweeping for IEDs and clearing routes can be done a lot quicker and more efficiently with the ABV. Engineers can do their jobs much safer with a tool like this.”
Engineers quickly dug out a lane using the ABV’s sharp plow, providing a drivable route free of IEDs. 3rd LAR followed in trace and began going mud hut to mud hut in search of enemy resistance.
Engineers relied on mine-clearing line charges to breach through the city’s outer wall and clear the path ahead.
After launching the MiCLC, Marines used the ABV’s blade to push away leftover rubble and, in some cases, uncover IEDs.
“When you’re doing it, you don’t even think about the danger,” said Lance Cpl. Jady Hubbard, a 27-year-old combat engineer from Trussville, Ala. While clearing away a pile of rubble with his ABV, Hubbard accidently uncovered an IED and cut it in half with the sharp plow blade. “You always expect to hit something, but you have to just trust your gear and the training you’ve been given.”
With Rawhide being such a large operation, a number of support Marines were present to help sustain the main effort. Many found themselves close to the action.
“It was real exciting to be a part of something like this,” said Cpl. Kevin Lain, a 22-year-old warehouse clerk from Midwest City, Okla. “To go from sitting on a base to being involved in combat operations was an experience.”
Spending most of his seven-month deployment on Camp Leatherneck issuing gear, Lain was able to see the end result of all his work.
“I see all kinds of gear come in -- vehicle doors, windows, ABV tracks,” Lain explained. “But actually seeing where it all goes and Marines using it to accomplish their mission was a real eye-opener.”
After detonating more than twenty IEDs, the engineers were able to provide 3rd LAR a safe access route directly into Bahram Chah.
“We were able to destroy a lot of the enemy’s material that should have an effect on the entire province,” Steele said. “I think we were also able to remind insurgents that wherever they are, they are not safe.”
This work, ABV Platoon Paves Way for 3rd LAR During Operation Rawhide, by Cpl John McCall, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.